Justus Hunter and I just read through the Apostolic Fathers with our Doctor of Ministry students. While reading, I was struck with the prevalence of “two ways” theology in these writings. It is most plainly stated in the opening line of the Diadache: “There are two ways: one of life and one of death. And there is a great difference between the two ways.”
What a marked difference between our context and theirs. Large swaths of the North American church continue their ongoing struggle to be relevant, seeker-sensitive, accommodating, and powerful–undertakings the early church would have recognized as utterly futile. Martyrdom was a real possibility for these first Christians. Two writers we include in the Apostolic Fathers, Ignatius and Polycarp, were publicly executed because they would not renounce their faith in Christ. To many of their day, it must have seemed such a small thing… “Make sacrifice to the genius of the Emperor…. That’s all you have to do. You can still say prayers to Jesus if you want, hang around with your Christian friends, engage in your strange rituals…. Just work with us on this one small detail….” But the early Christians knew: there could be no compromise in their devotion to the Christian God. It was all or nothing. There are two ways.
Perhaps this short post is only a reflection of my own disillusionment. I suppose I spend too much time on Twitter. But the ongoing accommodation to the demands of secularism, the eager knee-bending before political idols, the “Let’s go Brandon” chants coming from Christians sitting in church before a service ostensibly to worship the Christian God, Trinitarian heresy (subordinationism) from a theologian whose overriding hermeneutical principle seems to be a complementarian understanding of gender…. These get me down. Yes, I have my own sins. God knows them. But the key to overcoming sin is sanctification, and I wonder how much of the church in America today wants to be sanctified. Do we want to be saints or celebrities? God help us.
The early Christians were right. There really are two ways, one of life, and one of death. And the difference between them is vast.